Constant exhaustion is how we often feel. Whether we’re in the hustle and bustle of a big city or the Wendell Berry landscapes of a country farm, the to-do lists that accumulate often bombard us with waves of anxiety. We get unsettled by all the appointments and deadlines we can’t quite make. Our wants get scrambled up with our needs and it’s not always clear how to not only relax, but live in the chaos with a simple and real peace. How do we authentically preach patience in such an impatient, wound-up world? Here are 10 suggestions you might consider. It may be fodder for a single 10-point sermon or perhaps beginning threads for a sermon series on patience.
10 Ways To Preach Patience In An Impatient World
Have you ever commuted to work in silence? Try it. If you work some distance from home, it might just be the buffer you need to enter work and home with your thoughts more collected. Psalm 4:4 says, “Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” And again in Zephaniah 1:7, we are told, “Be silent before the Sovereign Lord, for the day of the Lord is near. The Lord has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.” In our buzzing, gadget-filled world, we should adhere to being silent and listening because, just like in Elijah’s case, God is likely in the whisper (I Kings 19:10-14).
Really Read The Bible
Plan for more than 10 minutes. Don’t look for a gimmick that requires the least amount of effort and time. The sure way to understand God’s working in our lives is to know his Scripture. Even more, it keeps us from sinning. Psalm 119:11-16 says it well: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”
Keep A Prayer Journal
Paul tells us to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17). How do we do that? We slow down and think about our day, the people in our day, the circumstances and challenges that may fill our day. We ask God’s blessing and his good work to be in and through all we do. The Psalmist says this day–right here, right now–is the day the Lord has made and we should rejoice and be glad in it (118:24). Prayer journaling is a great discipline to keep so that we might rejoice in the mighty things he will do in us and through us.
You can still find the person who asks, “What’s Facebook?” but they are becoming rare. Consider being that person, especially if your time online is absorbed with how you’re positioning yourself and your family. Only you can really answer this fully. Are you wanting praise and approval, or are you simply making sure Mom and Grandma see pictures of the kids? Most of our social media activity is a complete waste of time. And, it’s not our time to waste. Paul tells us we were bought with a price and should honor God with our bodies as a result (I Corinthians 6:20). Consider reducing your need to post, your want to react, your presence on Facebook, Instagram and every other platform to follow.
Time and again we see Jesus retreating to pray. Consider John 6: 16-17: “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum.” He was withdrawn so much that his worries about what would happen next did not intrude into his time with his Father. This is the occasion where Jesus walks on the water to catch up with his disciples. The transfiguration is also another awesome example of Jesus purposely moving into retreat. I also love Luke 5:15-16 which says, “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Let’s retreat to a lonely place time and again.
Notice God’s Creation
Isn’t it miraculous that trees and flowers sprout from the dirt? Isn’t it a thrill to see bees going from flower to flower in order to provide the pollination necessary to bring forth fruit? We’re often too busy to absorb God’s work through creation–how he is speaking everyday through it. And it shouts his redemption. Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” I like how Rich Mullins sings about God’s creation: “Cause it flutters and floats, it falls and it climbs, it spins and sputters and spurts. You filled this world with wonders ’round every turn. It buzzes and beeps, it shimmeys and shines, it rattles and patters and purrs. You filled this world with wonders. And I’m filled with the wonder of Your world” (“With the Wonder”).
We are so prone to gossip. One friend at a church we attended several years ago said she wasn’t gossiping, but sharing prayer requests. Gossip is a sign of impatience. It speaks to our desire to be loved and to be honest. We’re just unwilling to put in the time to make ourselves open and vulnerable to other people, so we turn inward and begin to criticize. We insert the log into our eye in order to see the speck in our neighbor’s life. Gossip is a named sin in the lists of Paul (Romans 1:29-30; 2 Corinthians 12:20). Psalms 12:2 says, “Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts.” Let us consider talking less and listening more. It might mold us into a more patient people.
Angels Scattered About
One of the thrilling and mysterious reasons to be patient in an impatient world is that angels lurk all about. “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers,” Hebrews 13:2 says, “for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” There are occasions where we see something of this sort. Recall Sarah and her laughter or Balaam and his donkey or Zechariah and his shut mouth. This is our Father’s world and the battle is larger and fuller than we sometimes realize… as Ephesians 6:12 reminds us about whom and what we really struggle against.
Gadgets Be Gone
When do you forget about your phone? Consider a place to store it once your work day is complete. If that’s too much, depending on your work and workload, consider your bedroom as a phone-free room. Either scenario will allow for space between the life in front of you and the life inside your phone. That may allow for more patience and care with the people in your life. So many of us are so beholden to technological gadgets that we forget who’s around us. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” If we’re honest, gadgets cause a good deal of anxiety because of our dependence on them. We should consider first steps to ask why and how we might change course. We may find ourselves more free, more giving, more patient in the end.
Keep The Sabbath
What was the first thing God ordained as holy? It was time. Genesis 2:3 says, “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Between the garden and the city to come in the new Jerusalem, nothing has changed. The day of rest is important for many reasons and it most certainly helps us to practice being patient in an impatient world. Isaiah 56:2 says, “Blessed is the one who does this— the person who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps their hands from doing any evil.” And there are warnings and rebukes throughout Scripture about those who do not keep the day holy. It’s a governor for all other days. If you haven’t read The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel, consider it. This small book is packed full of God’s truth about keeping the Sabbath holy.